The voice was fatigued, yet determined. He called to tell me that his wife had been in labor for 48 hours. The hospital recommended a C-section to deliver the breech baby and sent the couple home while they made a decision. "Can you help?" he asked me.
Arriving at their home I was escorted to a furnished basement. The light was soft down there and the air cool. It was the best place in the house for the mom, Zoe (not her real name) to rest. She was lying on a cushioned mat with her knees propped up by a bolster. After speaking with her for a short time I placed my hands under her cranium. Her face relaxed as the weight of her head rested in my hands.
I then moved to her pelvis, placing one hand underneath her sacrum. My other hand fanned out in a contact on her lower abdomen. I waited. Several minutes went by and Zoe's breathing deepened. Time seemed to disappear... and then in a moment the baby let me know that she had sensed my presence. There was no movement, just an energetic connection. A second later Zoe lifted her head and announced, "She said hello to you just now." This synchronized interrelatedness between mother, child and practitioner was profound.
I held the contact for several minutes more and waited. A subtle shift in fascia and fluid instructed me to rotate my hands. I followed this course of changing direction, tension and relaxation until it reached a point of complete stillness. My work was done.
Later that afternoon I received the call. Soon after I left, Zoe asked to be taken to the hospital. The baby had turned. The fetal presentation was normal. Zoe gave birth to a healthy baby girl without complication.
What did I do to help facilitate the birth? I simply listened and paid attention. Without distraction. In the listening a synergetic connection was made between the life force inherent in the mother, fetus and practitioner. That merging of innate intelligence directed a subtle movement in my hands. The uterus responded, giving the baby space to turn head-down, which is the natural order of things. Within the problem - the interruption in childbirth - was the solution.
There is of course training, experience and an inborn gift that comes into play in my work. At the same time, most of what I "do" in my practice involves non-doing: creating a container for the expression of something that is waiting to happen.
Our instructions in the modern world are almost exclusively in the doing. The subtlety and nuance of being disappear in the rush for productivity. Personally and collectively the stakes for this are enormous. Our attention is captured by noise, data and conflicting information in what the painter Giorgio de Chirico called "the increasingly materialist and pragmatic orientation of our age." The Roman philosopher Seneca asked "how many have robbed you of life when you were not aware of what you were losing... how little of yourself was left to you?"
In her brilliant book How to Do Nothing, Jenny Odell starts out by saying
Nothing is harder to do than nothing. In a world where our
value is determined by our productivity, many of us find our
every last minute captured, optimized, or appropriated as a
financial resource by the technologies we use daily.
Where do we place our attention? There is a choice. Don Miguel Ruiz in The Four Agreements defines attention as the ability we have to discriminate and to focus only on that which we want to perceive. It is difficult, though entirely possible in the cacophony of these times to focus our attention and indeed to perceive life differently. We can chart a new course for ourselves and the world that comes from the mysterious and yet accessible guidance that is interwoven in imagination and subtlety.
In slowing down our imperfections, our imperfect life, our wounds and our failures arise and within this our gifts also emerge. The linear materialist and pragmatic orientation of our age seeks to skip over all this mess, tweaking temporary solutions, ignoring the mess it is creating in its wake. And yet in the mess is the richness of life and our individual ability to offer what we came here to give. It offers the redemption possible in the stress of these times. In the words of the poet Leonard Cohen:
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is s crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in
"We still recognize that much of what gives one's life meaning'" writes Jenny Odell, "stems from accidents, interruptions, and serendipitous encounters: the "off time" that a mechanistic view of experience seeks to eliminate."
So, I invite you, I invite us all to do nothing, even for a few minutes a day and in the presence of nothing to discover everything contained in it.
Dr. Bruce Schneider